Words: Josh Horen
The Centennial Eagles boys varsity basketball notched their third straight victory and their first in-county win tonight in a thrilling victory over Long Reach, 69-67.
The Eagles had a slow start to the season dropping their first two games to Atholton High School and Mount Hebron High School. Since then, they have won three straight and seem to finally have picked up their offense.
Centennial, for the first four minutes of the first quarter, looked like they were ready to dismantle the Long Reach defense, jumping out to a 13-5 lead.
Senior Hayden Ford threw down back-to-back Shaquille O’Neal-esque dunks to put the Eagles up by eight points with 3:12 remaining in the first quarter.
However, the Long Reach Lightning answered with a 5-0 run of their own to end the quarter at 13-10. Ford was by far the standout player of their quarter tallying eight points and a handful of rebounds.
However, the second quarter was when the game really started to take its shape.
Long Reach scored an easy two points, to carry over their scoring run from the end of the first quarter, cutting the Eagles lead to just one point.
After that basket, the two teams traded baskets back and forth the rest of the quarter. Senior Corey Eudell connected on two three-pointers and Ford added seven more points in an extremely fast paced second quarter.
With 1:24 remaining in the half, junior Stafford Smith nailed a three-pointer to extend the Eagle lead to eight points. With a little more basket trading left in the half, Centennial went into halftime carrying a 34-28 lead.
In the second quarter, the Lightning switched to a 2-3 zone which proved to be quite ineffective. The Eagles made three three-pointers as Ford was continuing to find holes in the defense and scoring.
The second quarter was an offensive explosion for both teams and the pace would stay just as fast throughout the rest of the game. Ford and Eudell were carrying the offensive workload in the half and the defense picked up their play. Ford finished the quarter with 15 points, going 5/7 from the free throw line. Eudell had nine points all from beyond the three-point line.
The Eagles didn’t slow down in the second half either.
Senior Andrew Hohmann kicked off the third quarter with his first three points of the game, and extended the lead to 37-28.
After that shot, the Eagles offense went quiet and the Lightning offense picked up their play. Long Reach went on a 7-0 run and pulled within two points.
Senior Sean Taylor decided enough was enough and he made his first basket of the game, nailing a clutch three-pointer to push the Eagles lead to five points.
After a Lightning basket, Taylor went on an offensive eruption, scoring seven consecutive Eagle points, including a smooth finger roll after dicing through the lane, and another three-pointer.
When asked about his break-out in the third quarter, Taylor was confident in his offense but credits it all to his effort and sticking to the game plan.
“I just tried to be that spark for the team. In order to keep our energy up, all five of us needed to have that intensity we always talk about. I just tried to help to control the game by simply trying to make play,” said Taylor
With 2:04 remaining in the third quarter, Centennial held a 49-41 lead but Long Reach wasn’t going away. After some Lightning lay-ups, a Shawn Hill lay-up, and another Eudell three-pointer, Long Reach cut the lead to just five points, trailing 57-52 heading into the fourth.
Just like the third quarter, Hohmann started off the quarter with another three-pointer, extending the lead to 60-52.
After a Taylor lay-up, the Eagles saw their lead grow to eight points. However, the Lightning’s unwillingness to call it quits ultimately propelled them right back into the game.
With 2:13 left in the fourth quarter, the Lightning scored a lay-up and pulled to within just three points.
The Lightning were at the free throw line when they missed the shot and Hohmann had a tremendous effort to grab a very key offensive rebound. After hoisting it down he threw the ball out to the top of the key where it was stolen and taken the other way by Long Reach. The lay-up was missed but he was fouled and went to the free throw line. He connected on only 1/2 shots.
The Eagles were up 67-65 after that miss, but the Lightning got the ball again and tied the game at 67 a piece with 45 seconds left.
The Eagles had the ball and they were inbounding from their bench sideline. Hohmann got ahold of the ball, cut through the lane, and made what was ultimately the game winning shot.
When asked about the play and the shot, Hohmann was very blunt.
“The play was designed and the thought going through my head was to make the shot,” Hohmann stated.
Whatever was going through his head must’ve worked because the Eagles picked up their first in-county win tonight and the offense played out of their mind.
When asked about the offense’s performance, Eudell says that’s always what the Eagles strive for.
“That’s our goal every night, to get in rhythm as our offense flows and to get hot, and tonight we did that. To keep the offense flowing we have to cut down on turnovers and keep making the extra pass to push the ball,” explained Eudell.
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